Runs for the Border: Nelson Cruz, Crunchwrap Supreme

nelsoncruzThere is a special place in my stomach reserved for the gut reactions to Seattle Mariners free agent signings. It sits adjacent to the space allotted for the digestion of Taco Bell, and as a result elicits similar neural transmissions within my brain.

It all begins in the wake of a brief struggle between desire and logic, once reality sets in. An action has occurred, I discover. This action cannot be undone, I realize. From here on out, only reactions may take place. Thus, the time is nigh to react.

A part of me wanted that aging power hitter, I surmise, just like a part of me wanted that Crunchwrap Supreme.

The Mariners have now landed that aging power hitter, not unlike my belly, which has just landed a half-pound of mystery meat packaged within both soft- and hard-shell tortillas.

I’m happy now, my brain thinks. That is, until logic intervenes. Am I really happy? In the short-term, satiation is undeniable. Long-term, though, this may backfire. That aging power hitter may age quicker than anyone anticipated. That Crunchwrap Supreme may incite physical destruction of my bowels.

I peruse statistics searching for answers. Did you know that aging power hitter Nelson Cruz only has a .234 career batting average at Safeco Field? Did you know that Crunchwrap Supremes have 190 calories from fat? But Cruz does have more home runs at Safeco Field than all but two other ballparks he’s ever played in, and those two ballparks were both stadiums he called home for a season or more. And Crunchwrap Supremes do have … well, lettuce, and lettuce is allegedly healthy.

An emotional battle rages within my neocortex. Sure, there may have been better solutions out there, I argue – a younger power hitter, a healthier meal. But those alternatives would have proven costly, I rebut. Taco Bell, not unlike Cruz, was easy to come by, cheaper to obtain, and just as satisfying in the heat of the moment.  Justification!

Alas, as time transpires, justification may wither. Was pairing Mexican-inspired food with Mexican-inspired beer wise? Was a four-year contract for a 34-year-old sometimes-outfielder truly smart? Is there a devil inside of me? Are we able to trade this underperforming waste of a roster spot? Do we have any Tums? Does Japan need a designated hitter? These are all questions that can emerge later on.

Ultimately, a happy medium is reached. The Mariners needed something resembling a cleanup hitter just like I needed something resembling food. They found what they were looking for at a somewhat reasonable cost, just as I did the same. At some point in the future, the M’s may regret signing a 34-year-old to a four-year contract. At some point in the future, I may regret consuming flavored horse meat doused with cheesy sauce.

But for now, for right now, there is only pleasance. We needed to do something and we did it, the Mariners and I. We made choices with variable outcomes, but what kind of choices don’t have variable outcomes? What else would the Mariners have done with $57 million to spend on a free agent? They certainly weren’t going to give that money to you, incensed fanatic. Likewise, where else was I going to find a tasty, filling lunch with a drink for six bucks?  McDonald’s? Please. I’m not trying to eat fried pink chicken goo.

My gut reaction says this isn’t that bad. I’ve downed my fair share of Taco Bell without horrible results. The Mariners, on the other hand, have inked their fair share of power hitters with mixed results.  We’re exploiting the past to determine how we feel about the present and the future.

But Nelson Cruz isn’t any of the other ballplayers who came before him. He’s a unique individual with a unique opportunity to slot behind Robinson Cano in a potentially loaded Mariners lineup. He makes the likes of Corey Hart and Justin Smoak appear every bit as laughable as they were in a 2014 season that was thisclose to including a postseason.

And to top it off, besides money and a future draft pick, Cruz cost the Mariners none of their current assets. The human commodities populating the organization still exist in full, giving the M’s the chance to work a trade for yet another big-league contributor down the road. You want to see Matt Kemp or Yoenis Cespedes in a Mariners uniform? The signing of Cruz has done nothing to negatively hinder your not-so-far-fetched fantasies.

Right now, this is a great deal for a ballclub that needs to make great deals. Three or four years from now, who knows. But right now, like a late-night meeting with an all-too-satisfying bastardization of Hispanic cuisine, this is a splendid, splendid thing.

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